Hate speech, trolling, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats and sustained harassment - anyone who has been online recently has witnessed this depressing online culture of ours. According to a new study by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 37% of Americans experienced online hate in 2018.
The findings of the study are depressing, but not surprising. What is perhaps most striking about the data is the speed at which online hate is becoming more widespread. That figure mentioned above - 37% of respondents suffering abuse - is up from 18% in 2017. The meteoric rise of online hate is real.
In addition to those who have experience online hate, 41% of Americans reported being subjected to offensive name calling and 33% reported having been embarrassed on purpose.
Which platforms are magnets for harassment?
There are no prizes for guessing the winner in this category. Of all those who took part in the ADL study who experienced harassment online, 56% reported that at least some of this harassment occurred on Facebook.
The other social networks were not exactly platforms of serenity, either. Twitter (19%), YouTube (17%), Instagram (16%) and WhatsApp (13%), all have problems with online hate too. The numbers are slightly different when considering daily users of the platforms only. Of these heavy users, the survey found that nearly half (47%) of all daily users on the streaming gaming site Twitch have experienced harassment, followed by Reddit (38%), Facebook (37%) and Discord (36%).
Women and minorities are more likely to face harassment
Sixty-three percent of respondents who identified as LGBTQ+ experienced harassment online because of their identity. This was followed by Muslims (35%), Hispanics (30%), African-Americans (27%), women (24%), Asian-Americans (20%) and Jews (16%), all of which encountered hate speech online.
Online hate is also changing the way we use social media and the internet. Thirty-eight percent of respondents with experience of online hate and harassment stopped, reduced or changed online activities as a result. Around 18% tried to contact the platform directly, 15% took steps to reduce risk to their physical safety, and 6% contacted the police to ask for help or report online hate or harassment.
Worryingly, more than half (59%) of Americans reported believing that online hate and harassment is making hate crimes more common.
The survey of 1,134 individuals was conducted in December by YouGov, a leading public opinion and data analytics firm, on behalf of ADL’s Center for Technology and Society. Admittedly, the sample size is not huge, but ADL says that the survey has a margin of error of just +/- 3 percentage points.
Have you experienced hate or harassment online?